It’s quite common to spot a soft, spongy, stress ball on a work desk of your colleague. You might have yourself squeezed them or seen your colleagues ;’squeezing and releasing these squishy balls when under stress.
But do the fidget toys like stress balls really help in relieving stress? Should one press one these stress balls between the finger to get rid of anxiety and stress.
What is Stress and How Does it Impact You?
Stress is a natural response to the daily stressors we go through. When it comes to the modern-day world, we face a lot of pressure in terms of work, relationships, societal obligations, etc.
That being said, some amount of stress with regards to various aspects of life is good. This is because it keeps us on our toes and pumps us to undertake critical tasks, solve important issues, and get going to achieve the targets we set for ourselves.
For instance, stress before a job interview, an important examination, or a presentation gives us the much-needed boost to prepare well for the important event.
But the stress becomes problematic when it becomes chronic in nature. This is because chronic stress results in the activation of Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal Axis (called HPA) axis. Such an activation results in the release of a host of hormones.
These include corticoptropin releasing factor (CRF), a hormone released by hypothalamus that triggers the anterior pituitary. Such an activation makes anterior pituitary release adrenocorticotropic releasing hormone (ACTH) which stimulates the adrenal gland to release cortisol, the main glucocorticoid in humans and the stress hormone.
The release of cortisol results in increase in the blood glucose levels, that gives energy. Now, proper regulation of cortisol is critical as excessive or too little cortisol levels can be harmful.
For instance, too much stress can result in excessive cortisol levels that results in the development of neuropsychiatric and metaboloic disorders. For instance it can lead to stomach issues, headaches and severe health issues like blood pressure and diabetes.
Further, the activation of the stress response also leads to the release of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones put the body in the fight or flight mode and are responsible for certain physiological changes. These include sweating, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, tensed muscles, etc.
Now, fight or flight mode was necessary for survival when our ancestors faced a physical threat from ancestors. This is because the energy produced by the release of hormones made us to either fight the threat or run away to save our lives. However, in the abcence of such a physical threat today, this fight or flight mode results in issues like anxiety and frustration with no vent available for the energy.
This is where the stress balls come to rescue.
Do Stress Balls Really Work?
Experts like David Posen, MD and author the of the book ‘Is Work Killing You’ says that some amount of the stress energy can be channelized towards the physical object such as a stress ball.
As per Posen, stress balls can be great tools for stress relief as the squeeze and release motion can leave individuals less tensed.
Stress balls were invented by Alex Carwell, the 29-year-old TV writer. Alex got the idea of a stress ball after he had an annoying phone call with his boss. This phone call pushed him to throw a marker at the framed picture of his mother. Though the frame broke into pieces, but alex felt nice throwing the market out of frustration.
Also Read: Bubble bath to relief stress
In the past few years, there have been studies that show how stress balls have helped in reducing anxiety and stress. As per a reserach study in 2006, stress balls improved concentration and focus of sixth graders with ADHD.
Likewise, a study in the past few years that rejects the role of stress balls in relieving high blood-pressure, reducing heart rate, etc. Although, the sample size taken for such a study was very small.
But on the whole, stress ball are great tools to improve productivity and provide relaxation from anxiety and stress.
The caveat here is that no stress ball or squishy toys work when the stress is chronic in nature. It is always best to consult a medical proffesional and seek proper treatment to relieve stress and anxiety.